When (And Why) To Shake Off The Dust And Move On

By Ben Sternke on Aug 15, 2020

View article When (And Why) To Shake Off The Dust And Move On


Tucked away in the narrative of the earliest days of the church is a fascinating and funny story. In Acts 18:5-8, the apostle Paul and his team are in Corinth, and he initially spends his time preaching to the Jews, but they oppose him and become abusive. So Paul shakes out his clothes in protest and says, essentially, “Fine! If you’re not interested, from now on I will go to the Gentiles.”

Here’s the funny part: Paul leaves the synagogue and goes next door to a Gentile home, where there is a person of peace, and it’s the beginning of a lengthy, fruitful ministry in Corinth.

This is a story about what to do with “difficult soil” and highlights a principle of fruitfulness in disciple-making and gospel ministry: Cast seed widely, but concentrate your efforts where the harvest is ripe. If the harvest isn’t ripe, move on.

I can imagine Paul feeling frustrated that his own people weren’t responding to his message. Oftentimes I’ve felt this way when I’ve really wanted to see a harvest among a certain sub-culture, but it just isn’t happening. It seems right to “keep plugging away” and “stay faithful,” but the New Testament pattern doesn’t seem to line up with this approach.

Instead, Paul and others seem to move on fairly quickly when they don’t see their “gospel seeds” taking root quickly. They certainly cast the seed widely, but then they watch for where the fruit is emerging and concentrate their efforts there.

It’s a bit like Jesus’ parable of the soils—the farmer throws seed all over the place, but only 25% of it bears fruit. It makes sense for the farmer to cultivate the crops that are growing in good soil as opposed to spending time trying to coax them out of rocky or thorny soil. Ultimately the total harvest will be better if he concentrates almost all of his time on the good soil.

So if fruit is not forthcoming from a gospel effort, it’s good to remember that this is certainly no fault of the gospel, and often no fault with the preacher.

From the New Testament’s perspective, the readiest explanation is that the soil just isn’t ready, so the best solution in most situations is to simply shake off the dust and move on until you find good soil.

Interestingly, the (Jewish) synagogue leader Crispus becomes a believer after Paul gives up on preaching to Jews in Corinth and goes to the Gentiles. Moving on to better soil can often bring the original fruit you were looking for.

It’s a good reminder that this is God’s work; we’re just workers in his harvest fields, participating in his kingdom work in the world.

That said, however, there is a tension to be navigated: Sometimes it’s time to shake off the dust and move on, and other times we need to stay faithful in the battle and push for a breakthrough.

The trick is discerning which season is which, because we can easily normalize fruitlessness in the name of “faithfulness,” just like we can excuse ourselves from the battle in the name of “looking for better soil.”

This demands a bi-focal lens when it comes to faithfulness and fruitfulness, embracing the BOTH/AND of fruitful opportunism and faithful tenacity, the pragmatism of testing the soil and working where the harvest is ripe, and the prophetic passion and sight to see potential in unlikely places and fight for the breakthrough.

Ben is a husband of one, a father of four, and is currently planting a network of missional communities in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He blogs at bensternke.com


10 Lies of the World You Should Watch Out For

DiAne Gates

10 Lies of the World You Should Watch Out For

We were running late Sunday morning when husband let me out in front of the sanctuary. I noticed a disheveled woman sitting on a bench near the fountain and heard that urging in my heart, “Go talk to her. Invite her to come inside with you.”

But my mind squirmed. We’re late. I had to find a seat so my husband could help with the offering, so I headed for the door.

I exchanged pleasantries with the greeter and rushed inside. But the Spirit prodded, “You need to talk with this woman.” Shushing the voice, I headed for the escalator, rehearsing all the reasons I couldn’t obey. The choir was already singing the first hymn. I glanced at my watch. How could we have been so late?

Without meaning to, I listened to a lie of the world and put my needs above another’s. Here are 10 temptations we need to be aware of as Christians:

1. It’s all about you.

My worship, my singing, my time with God. But God’s Word shouted, “If you have run with footmen and they have tired you out, then how can you compete with horses? If you fall down in a land of peace, how will you do in the thicket of the Jordan?” (Jeremiah 12:5 NAS).

The realization of the choice I made rushed over me like a tsunami—choosing to rebel against God, rather than obey Him.

I begged forgiveness and promised I would speak with her—but she was gone and disobedience clung to my shoulders like a shroud. Being tempted is not a sin. But arguing with, and choosing my own understanding over God’s instruction is.

2. A little overspending won’t hurt you.

“The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower becomes the lender’s slave” (Proverbs 22:7 NAS).

With a gift card burning a hole in my pocket, and a sale sign in the window of my favorite boutique, I parked the car and promised not to spend a penny over the designated amount.

Until the gimmes took control. The plastic in my wallet crooned, “It’s such a good deal. You’ll never find all this at such a great price again.” And a split-second temptation won, and this borrower became a slave to plastic. Again.

3. Righteousness isn’t as important as it used to be.

“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people” (Proverbs 14:34 NAS).

Scripture states God never changes, so could righteousness become an obsolete word? Wisdom says it’s not. But Satan still whispers, “Indeed, has God said…” If we buy the deceptive lie there is no absolute truth, how will we have the ability to stand when righteousness becomes a life or death decision?

4. You can say whatever you think.

“And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell” (James 3:6 NAS).

Today we are held captive by the violence of uncontrolled tongues. Tongues set on fire by rulers, powers and spiritual forces of wickedness in heavenly places—from the White House, to the school house, into our homes. But listen to the wisdom of Scripture: “For the churning of milk produces butter, and pressing the nose brings forth blood, so the churning of anger produces strife” (Proverbs 30:31 NAS).

Maybe we should learn to shut our mouths, rather than spewing the defiling vomit of anger on those in our path.

5. It’s a free country; you can do whatever you please.

“There are six things which the Lord hates… Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, a false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers” (Proverbs 6:17-19 NAS).

In plain language, God hates those who think they’re better than others, liars, murderers of innocents, wicked hearts, and strife spreaders. We are all sinners—either saved or lost. We will not be perfected until Jesus transforms us, but the habitual patterns of our life indicate to whom we belong—not your name on a church roll.

6. A good job and money provides the happiness you need.

“For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth comes knowledge and understanding. He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity” (Proverbs 2:6-7 NAS).

The choice is money or integrity, which would you choose? Money vanishes in a heartbeat, but integrity is the substance of who you are and is a gift from God. “Do not be anxious, saying, What shall we eat? Or what shall we drink? Or with what shall we clothe ourselves? But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:31, 33 NAS). God provides for His own people.

7. You can watch a movie or TV without agreeing with the message.

“Finally brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worth of praise, let your mind dwell on these things” (Philippians 4:8 NAS).

The eyes are a window to the heart, and traffic flows both ways. Garbage in. Garbage out!

8. You don’t need to discipline your children.

“Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him” (Proverbs 22:15 NAS).

We’ve all seen the scenario of a screaming child and a stressed out parent who gives the child what they want. But bad behavior at any age is unacceptable “Behold, children are a gift of the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth” (Psalms 127:3-4 NAS). What are you aiming your children to become?

9. You don’t have to study the Bible to be a Christian.

“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15 NAS).

If your sweetheart wrote you a love letter, would you leave it unopened? The Bible is God’s love letter—His story and your story. A life, death, life story! Reading, studying, and memorizing these words enable the Spirit of God to transform us into the image of Jesus. Without God’s Word in our hearts and lives, we don’t stand a prayer of victory in these evil times. “Whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4 NAS). The first time you picked up a trigonometry book you didn’t understand that either—it took study.

10. Loving others isn’t important.

“By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious; anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother” (1 John 3:10 NAS).

If we took a mug-shot of how God sees us before Jesus’ blood, we would be horrified, and humbled. Jesus said, “Your self-righteousness is like filthy rags.” Disgusting. But He loved us enough to hang on that torturous cross. Ridiculed. Made a public spectacle. Suffered and died for you and me. Jesus was born to die… and so are you and me…that life, death, life amazing plan. Would you deny such marvelous news to anyone? We are created in the image of God. And only through the power of His Spirit in us can we love. That’s why we were created—“To love the Lord our God with all our hearts, and to love our neighbors as ourselves.”

DiAne Gates illustrates and writes fiction for children and YA, and serious non-fiction for the folks. Her passion is calling the church’s attention to how far we’ve catapulted from God’s order as evidenced by her blog Moving the Ancient Boundaries. DiAne worked as a photographer and writer for the East Texas Youth Rodeo Association magazine, giving birth to her western rodeo adventure series, ROPED, (available on Amazon). The sequel, TWISTED, will be released by Prism in early 2017. She also facilitates GriefShare, an international support ministry for those who’ve lost loved ones. 

Photo credit: ©Thinkstock/weerapatkiatdumrong


Churches could transform inner cities. Here’s how

The tragedy of unemployable school graduates

By Paul Swamidass, Op-ed Contributor

Baltimore, Philadelphia, Chicago, Oakland, and many other large cities have two problems in common: inner-city illiteracy and poverty. The two problems together form an interconnected tragedy that has been growing for about 40+ years.

As a nation, we are not yet trying to fix this national tragedy. As a matter fact, it has not yet entered our national consciousness as a BIG and formidable problem.

How severe is this tragedy?  Congressional Republican Candidate from Baltimore Ms. Kim Klacik reports two disturbing metrics about Baltimore city’s schools: 11 out 12 boys cannot read at grade level, and in over a dozen high schools, not one student is proficient in math; this is a tragedy for the children, their parents, the inner-city economy, and the nation. Ms. Klacik deserves our gratitude for exposing these disturbing metrics in her promotional videos as a part of her campaign.

All well-meaning Americans would agree, this tragedy deserves a response that is long overdue.

The above metrics are screaming at us that these inner-city students will be unemployable, when they leave school, with or without a fake high school diploma. Without stable employment possibilities, they will look to alternate sources of income, i.e., crime. Those who take to crime as an alternate source of income will pay a severe price with their lives, while dragging their families along with them. They all deserve better.

It is ironic that illiteracy prevails in these big cities although K-12 education is “free” in the local public schools! Unfortunately, “free” public-school education in inner cities has failed the local children and their parents in Baltimore and many other cities. Sometimes, what is “free” is not automatically effective.

When “free” schools fail, on theory, parents could step in and help their children become literate and get an employable education. However, as it stands, poor inner-city parents are unable to help their children with their schoolwork. The result: at 18, an intolerably high percentage of inner-city children leaving school are illiterate and unemployable. They will face a lifetime of unemployed nightmare.

On the average, after 12 years of schooling, an illiterate from the above schools will spend about 40-50 years of his/her adult life without stable employment, and without the ability to support a family. As mentioned above, the alternate form of employment readily accessible to an illiterate is crime, which is tragic for the individual and his/her family. This tragedy resembles the one the Good Samaritan witnessed in Jesus’ parable, and responded promptly and very generously.

Who will be the Good Samaritan here?

If the inner-city churches want to respond to this challenge at their doorsteps, they can offer free tutoring to local public-school children struggling with schoolwork. However, churches may employ many potential excuses to avoid this challenge, including:

1.  Public school education is the responsibility of the state.

2.  We pay taxes for this very purpose. It is not our problem.

3.  Why not demand that schools and parents do a better job? 

Inner-city schools have been progressively failing for more than 40+ years, and there are absolutely no signs to indicate things would improve now or in the future. Further, no one seems to care enough to fix this tragic problem today. For example, at the first presidential debate of 2020, there was not a single question to the two candidates as to how they would fix this problem of inner-city illiteracy and resulting human tragedy.

Today, tutoring by churches is a God-given opportunity to reach out to our inner-city students and parents in their community, regardless of their faith. Like the Good Samaritan in Jesus’ parable, churches can choose to help inner-city children and their parents, who are just as helpless today as the injured and dying man in Jesus’ parable.

If inner-city churches assume the responsibility for tutoring failing school children in their communities, inner cities could turn into a mission field. There is a great potential here for churches to collaborate across the nation to tackle the inner-city tutoring mission by sharing knowledge, experience and resources; wealthier churches in the suburbs could also play a supportive role in this “Good Samaritan” project.

Learning from the Good Samaritan

When he left home, the Good Samaritan in the parable neither anticipated his encounter with the injured man, nor prepared himself to help him. But, upon seeing the helpless, dying, injured man, the Samaritan assumed full responsibility for helping him, not half-heartedly, but with all the resources at his disposal. He did not use excuses such as the following to ignore the man in need of help:

1.  He is a Jew, why not let another Jew take care of him?

2.  I am running late for my appointment.

3.  Jews have not been kind to me in the past.

4.  I did not come prepared to help this man, etc., etc.

In the parable, the good Samaritan overcame his excuses, if there were any. Churches too can overcome their excuses and rise up to take on the challenge of tutoring inner-city students to become literate and employable.

One church’s response

Pastor Charles Johnson of EGC Ministries in Philadelphia, with a small church school, started a free after-school tutoring program for the surrounding community about two years ago. It began with a sign posted outside saying, “OUR HOUSE: Free Tutoring Program.” It attracted students and parents from the community. The tutoring sessions, Monday through Thursday, include free snacks and brief lessons from the Bible to all students regardless of their religious background. Parents request tutoring in writing and are made aware of accompanying Bible education, without any apology. Even Muslim parents have used this tutoring program for their children.

OUR HOUSE is a free tutoring site in Philadelphia. | Courtesy of Paul Swamidass

This fall, with the above experience behind him, the pastor is promoting the idea of church-based tutoring among several churches in Philadelphia across denominations. The goal is to form a loose coalition of mutually supportive churches in the city to offer tutoring to public-school children at multiple church locations using volunteer teachers or teachers receiving an honorarium. Participating churches will attempt to share knowledge, experience, and resources to help new partner churches joining this tutoring effort. For example, Pastor Johnson has the experience of running a church school for many years, and his knowledge and experience could serve as a resource for all churches embarking on the tutoring mission.

A picture of an Our House student who graduated from school at Auburn, AL. | Courtesy of Paul Swamidass

The working model for Pastor Johnson is a five-year old, successful, free, after-school tutoring program offered by OUR HOUSE, a ministry that is conveniently located in two homes across the street from project housing in Auburn, AL. OUR HOUSE ministry at Auburn caters to about 100 children from the nearby project housing four days a week with snacks and free tutoring. They offer a study hall, computers, and caring and friendly tutors. The goal of the program is to enable students to excel in schoolwork, week after week, while “gaining confidence in their abilities to excel at school.”

Our House at Auburn uses volunteers from local churches and the community, as well as students from Auburn University.  Many of the participating university students, under the supervision of Our House staff, earn academic credit for their service learning, practicum and internships completed at Our House. Pastor Charles Johnson visited OUR HOUSE in Auburn, AL, before starting one of his own to transform one child at a time in Philadelphia. Conclusion: Yes, it can be done; it has been done.

“Arise, O Church arise!” exhorts a modern hymn by Getty and Townend.

Paul Swamidass is Professor Emeritus at Auburn University’s Harbert College of Business. He is author of over 100 academic publications and several books including Engineering Entrepreneurship from Idea to Business Plan (Cambridge University Press, 2016). His essays on the implications of Biblical Leadership for contemporary leaders appear on the websites of Christian Leadership AllianceLead Like Jesus, and Faith Driven Entrepreneur.Pl let me know if you have any questions.


Yes, Big Boys Can Cry. And They Should

By Aarik Danielson -July 13, 2020

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” – Genesis 1:27

A man doesn’t have to fit a cultural stereotype to be biblically masculine. He can be a man whether watching a football game, painting a picture, tearing up at a moving film, or wiping snotty noses. Macho does not define masculinity. Instead, masculinity models after Jesus himself. 

Sometimes it seems miraculous that any of us show any emotion at all. So many forces within and without conspire to confuse the issue until we don’t know when or where to express ourselves.

We poke fun when public figures show emotion, yet crave a less callous world. We struggle to name our feelings, even though we repost sentimental videos. Relieving the tension of tears, we joke about how dusty the room is or the presence of someone slicing onions.

For every pop song encouraging us to Let Her Cry or Cry Me a River, there is an equal and opposite No Woman, No Cry or Don’t Cry. Big girls don’t cry. Boys don’t cry, either.

This emotional disorientation rings true for both men and women, but I feel it acutely as a man. The moment I breathe a sigh of relief, believing we’ve moved beyond unhelpful symbols of stoic, stiff-lipped manhood, tends to be the moment I find such symbols reinforced.

Christian circles encourage men to look to the Bible in hopes of defining and reclaiming manhood. What we find there might surprise us. Yes, we discover warrior-kings who put the man in manifest destiny. But we also come across men who cry — scores of them.

Lingering among the poets and prophets, we recognize tender emotion is not a New Testament phenomenon. It does not arrive with Jesus, furthering a false dichotomy which pits an Old Testament God against his only begotten son.

Rather, this soft-heartedness befits God from the very beginning, a key part of what the one and only emotionally-balanced being holds in tension.

For all their faults and fateful mood swings, David and his band of liturgists represent God’s emotional range through real blood, sweat, and tears. David writes of flooding “his bed with tears” and drenching “his couch with weeping” in the middle of deep dread (Ps. 6:6).

On multiple occasions, psalmists write of tears as sustenance (Ps. 42:3, 102:9), suggesting prolonged periods of grief and melancholy contribute to a healthy emotional and spiritual life, granted the Christian seeks balance across the span of his or her days.

The psalmist’s tears flow outward in Psalm 119, affirming the rightness of weeping over those who stray from God’s best for their lives: “My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your law.

Jeremiah earned the nickname “the weeping prophet.” Recently finishing the first two seasons of the vanguard 1990s TV series Twin Peaks, I imagine the prophet as someone like Deputy Andy Brennan who, in a wholly unprofessional but emotionally authentic manner, bursts into tears every time he encounters a murder scene. Likewise, Jeremiah can’t help but weep when he comes across another mess made by God’s people.

In Jeremiah 9:1, he laments, “Oh that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!”

In subsequent chapters, he vows to weep over the people’s pride, cries over their captivity, and sheds tears over the fate of the nations. Jeremiah represents God’s wishes and ways to his people. Of course, God uses each of his prophets’ particular skills, strengths and tempers — but if Jeremiah weeps over the people, God does too.

Traveling into the New Testament, we see the same impulse in Jesus. He weeps over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41-44), displaying the true heart of God for those who will not turn from the sin that slowly kills them.

Jesus famously weeps over his dead friend Lazarus in the Bible’s shortest verse (John 11:35), reminding us grief is sewn into the condition of a fallen world. Even when we are assured of God’s eventual resurrection, as Jesus clearly was, it is good and right to mourn those we love.

Peter weeps when he recognizes the gravity of his own sin (Luke 22:62). Likewise, our hearts should break open and our emotions spill out in those moments when our eyes see our betrayal of God in things little and great.

Paul provides a beautiful model for the tearful pastor, weeping often over congregations he loves. His tears are a sign of his affection (2 Cor. 2:4), and his deep desire to protect the church, so it might flourish in faith (Phil. 3:18).

The biblical narrative presents a compelling, clear picture: Men who have been with God will cry. They cry over that which breaks God’s own heart, and shed tears as a sign of their love for God and his people.

This doesn’t mean God completely rewrites the emotional makeup of the Christian man or, that once converted, a relatively calm or stoic person becomes overly demonstrative. We can affirm, however, that the gospel introduces softness where there once was only something hard and impenetrable (Ezek. 36:26).

It isn’t necessarily a shame if men don’t cry. The shame is when men don’t cry because their tears are choked out by cultural forces, or because they remain beholden to the last, calcified remains of their old, hardened selves.

In my experience, the words and prayers of people living in light of the gospel evoke tears — and these people are easily edified and moved by the beauty of God and kindness of salvation.

I see evidence in my friend Bobby, who often experiences moments of true tenderness in the presence of Gospel proclamation; in Billy, a church planter who reminds me of Jeremiah and Andy Brennan, often weeping in the pulpit out of a genuine desire to see people know Jesus; in Kurt, who can’t help but tear up as he recounts God’s mercies made manifest through God’s people.

Many days, I wish to be like them. I write about the goodness of men crying not from the softness of my own heart, but from hopeful aspiration.

At a very fixed point a few years ago, my wife puzzled aloud over my lack of emotion when discussing childhood trauma, the sins of once dear friends and the connections those sins frayed. I wasn’t holding back to meet some outmoded, one-size-fits-all standard of manhood, but out of the  cumulative effect of that trauma, waning faith, and a resulting bout of self-reliance.

But I want to cry. I want to cry over the state of the world, then cry at the promise of a new one. I want to weep over my sin, then cry tears of thankful relief as God meets me in it. I want to cry in front of my son, so he can know that our emotions are as fearfully and wonderfully made as any other part of us.

When I look for heroes of the faith, in holy texts and down the street, I see men who cry. Of course, I see wonderful, gospel-changed women too.

But as a man who still sees the large shadow of stubborn, sober manhood, I find great comfort in knowing these men exist. I will pray and position myself close to a gospel which softens clay and softens men, so I might join them more often, together bearing another aspect of the image of God.

This article originally appeared here.

Yes, Big Boys Can Cry. And They Should.

VIDEO Is He Living or Did He Die?

David Jeremiah

I heard about a Christian who was walking through an art gallery in Glasgow, Scotland, on one occasion. He came upon a small boy who was gazing upward at a painting of the Crucifixion. After watching him a moment, the man laid a hand on the little lad’s shoulder and he said, “Young fella, what is that picture”? And the boy said, “Why, sir, you don’t know? It’s our Lord dying on the cross. He is bearing our sins”. The man patted the boy on the shoulder and said, “Thank you”, and he walked on, looking at the other pictures in the gallery. Suddenly, he felt a tug at his sleeve and it was that same little boy again and he said, “Pardon me, sir, I forgot one thing. He’s not dead anymore. He’s alive”.

When I read that story I’m reminded of 1 Corinthians chapter 15. The entire chapter says, “Pardon me, sir, he’s not dead anymore. He’s alive”. If you have your Bibles today, you should find 1 Corinthians 15. If you don’t have your Bibles, we’ll have most of it up on the screen but, particularly today, I hope you will see in your own Bibles the wonderful message that answers the question, “Is he living or did he die”? And the answer is “Both”.

Now 1 Corinthians might not be familiar to you. You may not know what’s in that chapter or perhaps if somebody said, “What is 1 Corinthians 15”, you wouldn’t know how to answer. But if you were to select the ten greatest chapters in the Bible, hardly anybody who knows the Bible would leave this chapter off that list. I’ve never seen the list of the great chapters in the Bible where 1 Corinthians 15 wasn’t on the list. It’s all about the Resurrection. Paul gives us the clearest and most concise definition of the gospel.

If somebody were to ask you today, “What is the gospel”? what would you say? Well, here’s your answer: “I declare to you the gospel”, said Paul, “that which I also received”, and here it is. “That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures”. That is the gospel. That is the good news. And Paul insisted that the Resurrection of Jesus Christ be a part of that definition. It is pivotal to our lives. In fact, the apostle said that if the Resurrection isn’t a part of it, nothing that we do has any meaning.

In the next few verses of 1 Corinthians chapter 15 and verses 17 through 19, Paul says this: “If Christ is not risen, your faith is futile”, that mean it’s meaningless. “If Christ is not risen, you are still in your sins! If Christ is not risen, all of those Christians who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If Christ is not risen, in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied”.

I remember growing up in a Christian family and going to the church where my father preached and he always preached on the Resurrection on Easter and once in a while he would preach on it at other times. But I was a student in seminary in my second semester as a freshman before I really came to grips with what the Resurrection was all about. I’ll never forget it. I went to a friendship dinner where Haddon Robinson was the speaker and he spoke on the Resurrection and I will never forget that message. For the first time in my life I realized that the death of Christ is without meaning if there is no Resurrection. If Christ died and he did not come out of the grave as he said he would, then his death is no better than the death of any martyr who ever lived before him or after him.

The Resurrection is the touchstone of the gospel. It was the Resurrection that was the message of the apostles after Jesus came out of the grave. And if Jesus Christ is not alive today, men and women, those of us who are Christians should be pitied. And here’s why: Because we believe there is a better world than the one in which we live. We believe that this world is temporary and the events of the future are really significant and if Christ isn’t risen, we have given up both worlds. We have turned our backs on this world in order to face a world which doesn’t even exist.

Paul was right. If Christ is not risen, we should be pitied. We simply cannot over-estimate the importance of Jesus’s Resurrection. If it didn’t happen, our lives are futile and meaningless but look at the next verse in the text and rejoice with me: “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep”, hallelujah. It isn’t a matter of, did he rise. It is a matter that he did and now we rejoice in the fact that we know the risen Christ and we understand the Resurrection.

Now, don’t miss this. The Bible says that Jesus’s Resurrection is not just about him but it’s about us. Today, I want you to consider some things we might never have known about Jesus and one of them is this. That Jesus is the first fruits of those who sleep. And I want you to just hold your questions about that and let me explain that from the Old Testament. In the Old Testament book of Leviticus in the 23rd chapter, we have the background of the feast of the first fruits. That was a Jewish feast. How many of you know that much of the truth of the New Testament rests upon some understanding of the Old Testament?

So let me tell you a little bit about this feast. Every year during harvest time, a Jewish person would go out into the harvest and he would go out into the grain and he would mark out a spot in the grain and he would cut off a sheaf of the harvest and he would bring it back and he would give it to the priest, and the priest would take it and he would wave that sheaf before the Lord. What was the meaning of that? Well, it was called the first fruits. It came out of the first part of the harvest and, by waving it before the Lord, the priest was saying, “This is the beginning of the harvest, but the harvest hasn’t totally come yet. This is the first fruits; this is a promise there is more”.

Now, when Jesus says he is the first fruits of those who sleep, and the word “sleep” there means death, he is waving the Resurrection of himself before the Lord and saying, “I’m the first fruits. There’s more resurrections to come”. Now let me just tell you something about this feast. It was the third of the seven Jewish feasts and the pledge was presented to the Lord on the day after the Sabbath. Which day is that? That is Sunday and what is Sunday? It is the reminder to us of the risen Lord. On the day after the Sabbath, on Sunday, they waved the sheaf before the Lord almost as if to connect it to the New Testament. “For the Lord Jesus is the first fruits of those who sleep”.

It is so interesting to me that this puts these two things together because Jesus Christ came out of the grave, we rejoice in his Resurrection but we don’t often realize that because he came out of the grave, that’s the promise that one day we shall come out of the grave. He is the first fruits, he is the first of the resurrections, and there’s more resurrections coming. If we live and die before Jesus comes back, we will go in the grave. Our spirit and soul will go to be with the Lord but our bodies will go in the grave. And the Bible says: “One day because Jesus came out of the grave victorious over death, our bodies will also be raised up”.

How do we know that? Because Jesus was the first fruits and he’s the guarantee, he’s the promise, that there’s more resurrections coming. That’s the first fruits of the Resurrection, 1 Corinthians 15:20. I wanna talk with you next about the foundation of the Resurrection and this is in verses 21 and 22. And I’m not trying to get overly theological today. I’m trying to help you grab hold of some truth in this passage that is some things about Jesus you may not know. And I’m pretty sure there’s someone here today that did not know that Jesus was the first fruits of all the resurrections to come.

Let me read this passage to you: “For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive”. Now, in verse 21 we learn that there was a time when tragedy came into this world through one man. Who was that man, class? It was Adam, poor Adam. We’ve been piling on him for a long time. We don’t often say much about his wife and I’m not gonna get into that discussion today by any… The Bible says: “By one man death came into this world”.

Did you know that before Adam sinned there was no death? If Adam had not sinned, everyone would have lived forever. There would have been no death. But when Adam sinned, death was born. And the tragedy that came into this world through Adam is death but the Bible says in the same verse that through another man triumph came into the world, and who was that man? That was Jesus Christ. And how did that come into the world? Through the Resurrection. Through one man came death, through another man came life.

If you have a Bible like mine, look down at the text and you will notice that the second “Man” in your text is capitalized because that Man by whom came the Resurrection is the Lord Jesus Christ. What we have here are two different categories of men. We have Adam’s race and we have Jesus’s race. Really, there’s only two races, and we hear a lot about racism today but in the context of the Bible there’s only two races. There’s Adam’s race and there’s God’s race. And he’s saying that, basically, these two races are in the world today. There’s the race of natural man and there’s the race of spiritual Man. Adam is the federal head of the natural race and, because Adam sinned, we’ve inherited that DNA. We’re all in Adam’s race. You don’t have to ask to get in that race; you’re automatically in it. Because Adam sinned, we all sinned.

Now, let me pause here and straighten out something that’s gotten all sideways over the years. How many of you know what universalism is? Universalism is the idea that everybody gets saved no matter what they do, they we all go to heaven, hallelujah, isn’t this a wonderful party? Nobody has to get saved, nobody has to repent. If you’re born, God is so loving, he’s gonna take everybody to heaven someday. Not. And one of the verses they use is this verse. They say, “Here it says, ‘Even so in Christ all shall be made alive.'” But let’s go back and look at that verse more carefully. The “alls” in this verse are particular, “As in Adam all die”. That means everyone in the human race, every one of us who are of Adam, one day we shall die.

“As in Adam all die”. Because Adam once died we will die. But are all of us in Christ? That is the question. I hope you are but notice it says, “As in Adam all die”, if you’re in Christ the “all” goes with you. All you who are in Christ, it’s not all, everybody in the world. It’s all, everybody in Christ. So as in Adam all die, in Christ everybody who’s in Christ shall be made alive. Everyone who is in Adam dies; however, everyone who is in Christ shall live. Let me ask you this question this morning: Are you in Christ? You say, “How do I get in Christ”? You get Christ in you. You ask him to come and live in your heart, you accept him as your Savior.

The Bible says if you’re just in Adam you’re gonna die but if you’re in Christ you’re gonna live. And there’s a little paradigm that I remembered from way back when. It goes like this: “If you’ve been born once you have to die twice. But if you’ve been born twice you only have to die once”. That’s a pretty good deal right there. You say, “How does that work, Pastor”? Well, it works like this. If you’ve been born once and you haven’t been born again, you’re gonna die physically and you’re gonna die spiritually. Physical death is the separation of the soul from the body. Spiritual death is the separation from your soul from God forever. You don’t want the second death. You don’t want that. The Bible says you can avoid the second death by being born twice. You’ve already been born physically. Now get born spiritually. Let Jesus Christ come into your life and when you are born spiritually, you may die once physically but you will never die spiritually.

So let me say it again. If you have been born once, you will die twice. But if you have been born twice, you will only have to die once. And some of you, some of us, I believe I’m gonna be one of ’em, I might not have to die at all ’cause if Jesus comes back before I die, I don’t have to die no more at all. How would you like to escape it all? How would it be if Jesus came back and none of us have to die at all? Not physically, not spiritually, hallelujah. Even so, come, Lord Jesus, amen? So you have the first fruits of the Resurrection and then you have the foundation of the Resurrection.

Now, this is gonna get a little complicated but I think if you stay with me we can get through this. This is the future order of the Resurrection. Verse 23 says: “But each one in his own order: Christ the first fruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at his Coming”. Now, in the Bible, resurrection is a preeminent theme. We have the Resurrection of Christ but there’s other resurrections and I want to go through these with you so you understand them and we don’t leave here ignorant. Stage one is the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. More than 2000 years ago, Christ was raised from the dead. And that doesn’t mean he was the first one ever to overcome death.

Some people will say, “No, Pastor Jeremiah, he wasn’t the first. There were people in the Old Testament who were resurrected. What about Lazarus and the widow’s son and Jairus’s daughter”? There were at least ten events in which people rise from the dead in the Bible. That’s true. But Christ’s Resurrection was different from them all because whereas they rose to die again, Jesus rose to die no more. And when he rose to live in the power of an endless life, he rose with a glorified body so he is the first Resurrection.

This is a wonderful reminder for all of us that when we get to know the resurrected Jesus, we’re getting to know Jesus as he really is today. We remember, do we not, that we discovered one of the things we may not have known about Jesus that he’s in heaven in his body; in his glorified, resurrected body, he is in heaven. When we pray to him, he hears us not just through his spirit but he hears us through his humanity. He is in heaven. When we see him in heaven someday, he will show us the scars in his hands and the wound in his side and probably where the thorns went on his head. And forever, whenever we see him throughout eternity, we’ll be reminded of the price that was paid for us to be in heaven with the Lord Jesus. The degree to which we neglect the Resurrection is the degree to which we neglect to think about Jesus as he really is. Jesus is in heaven in his resurrected body.

So stage one in the resurrections is the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. But how many of you know there’s another resurrection coming? And here’s how that works. Let me just paint this picture. Here we are, folks, we’re living in the church age. That’s where we are right now. How many of you know the end of the church age is when Jesus comes back in the Rapture? He doesn’t come all the way back to the earth. He comes, and we go up to meet him and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

And the Bible says in 1 Thessalonians chapter 4 that when Jesus comes back in the Rapture, what will happen is those who have died already, those who are asleep in Jesus, “they will hear the voice of the archangel and the trumpet of God and the dead in Christ shall rise”, there’s the second resurrection, “rise first”. The Thessalonians were all concerned when they heard about all the good things that were gonna happen in the future because their loved ones had already died and they were in the grave and they were saying, “What about Mom and Dad? What about Gramps and Grandma? What’s gonna happen to them”? And Jesus said, “Don’t worry about that”.

Paul wrote. He said that when Jesus comes back there’s gonna be a shout, the voice of the archangel, and when that happens the dead in Christ shall rise first. That means that all of us who have loved ones who have already died as Christians, they will participate in stage two of the resurrections. The next resurrection that is coming is the resurrection of all who have died in Christ during the church age, during this time as we await the return of Jesus Christ. Resurrection number two.

Somebody says, “Why do they come first”? And some wag said, “‘Cause they have 6 feet further to go”. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but… and the Bible says that at the Rapture when this resurrection happens, we’re gonna be caught up to be with the Lord and, listen to me now, on the way up we’re gonna get our resurrection bodies. And our bodies are gonna be just like the body of the Lord Jesus. There are several passages in the New Testament that talk about that and I love what Paul said to the Philippians. He said God is gonna “transform our lowly body so that it may be conformed to his glorious body”.

Listen to me, someday we are gonna have bodies by the Lord. Bodies of Jesus. The Bible says that, “we know that when he is revealed, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is”. One day you and I are gonna have perfect bodies, bodies like the Lord Jesus, amen. Yeah, that was kind of delayed, but I’ll take it. So here’s the first Resurrection: Jesus Christ. Here’s the second: at the Rapture.

Now, what happens after the Rapture, folks? A little lesson in prophecy. After the Rapture, there’s a period of time called the Tribulation, seven years that’s gonna happen on this earth. Don’t get scared about this ’cause if you’re a Christian you ain’t gonna be here. You’re gonna be in heaven. Why? ‘Cause you’re gonna be raptured up before the Tribulation. But on this earth, seven years, all hell is gonna break out on this earth. And some people say, “Well, nobody’s gonna get saved during the Tribulation”. That’s not true. The Bible says that during that seven-year period of time, there’s gonna be 144,000 Jewish evangelists set loose on this earth.

Can you imagine what will happen? Two witnesses, Moses and Elijah, I believe, will be teaching and preaching the Word of God. Here’s what you need to know. During the Tribulation period, there will be the greatest revival on this earth that has ever happened in the history of the world. Hundreds of thousands of people will be saved during the Tribulation period. And many of those who are saved will pay for their salvation with their life. They will be martyred. The Antichrist will take their lives. They will be starved out. They will die. And the Bible says at the end of the Tribulation, at the end of the seven years, there’s gonna be another resurrection.

Let me read to you the Scripture, Daniel 12: “There shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, every one who is found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt”. When Christ returns to reign during the Millennium, not one single believer’s body from Adam until that time will still be in the grave. All of those who have been saved during the church age will have gone up and been resurrected at the Rapture. Then there’s the seven-year period of Tribulation. A lot of people get saved in the Tribulation. Many of them die. They’re resurrected at the end of the Tribulation.

After the Tribulation, there’s the Millennium. And the Millennium is 1000 years when Jesus is gonna reign on this earth. He’s gonna be King of kings and Lord of lords on this earth. He will have a reign of righteousness and peace. No one who is unsaved will go into the Millennium but in the Millennium there’ll be many unsaved. They’ll have children who don’t know the Lord. And at the end of that 1000 years, the final resurrection is like this. Everybody who is not saved, everyone who’s not a Christian, will be raised up, all at once. And they will come before what the Scripture calls the Great White Throne Judgment. And they will give an account for their life. There will be no Christians at the Great White Throne. That’s the last resurrection.

Here’s how the Scripture describes it: “And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works”. There will be no saved people at that judgment. Everybody who comes before that judgment will be sent to hell because they have rejected Jesus Christ. But there will be this great resurrection at the end of the Millennium.

You just heard me read it from the Scripture. And this helps us to understand what Jesus said, “Each in his own order”. First, Jesus, then all the Christians who are alive when he comes, then all those who get saved during the Tribulation, and then all of the unsaved of all of time are resurrected. Somebody said, “Well, we just die and that’s it”. Or “We die as dogs. After you die, that’s it, you’re done”. No, that’s not true. Listen to me here. Every one of us in this room is gonna be alive somewhere forever. We get to make the decision as to where that will be in this life alone. You don’t get a do-over. You only go to heaven if you make the decision to go to heaven now. You have to make your reservation now by putting your trust in Jesus Christ. If you’re not a Christian, I hope that message is clear.

What is the final result of this resurrection? Here it is and here’s what Paul says. He says when this is all done, when all we’ve been talking about is done, “Jesus Christ is going to deliver up the kingdom to God the Father”, verse 24 and 25, “when he puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all of his enemies under his foot”. Jesus came into this world not just to redeem us. He came into this world to redeem the whole universe and, one day, there’s gonna be a renovation of this world. I haven’t time to talk about it today. And just as he redeems us and changes us from the inside and makes us new, one day he’s gonna redeem this whole earth and make it new. And that’s a story for another day. He will deliver the kingdom.

Then the Bible says that when Jesus comes to the end of his time on this earth, death will be destroyed. 15:26 in 1 Corinthians says: “The last enemy that will be destroyed is death”. Just as death came because Adam sinned, death will be destroyed, and the Bible says that Jesus Christ is gonna take this last enemy, this last enemy of death, and it will be forever destroyed. I don’t know whether you like it or not. I surely don’t like it. But we’re overtly created to think about death. And the older we get, the more we do it. Every time you have a little pain, “Is this the end”? Every time you forget something, you say, “Oh my goodness, is this the beginning”? We think about it, don’t we?

And the Bible says that there are some people who go through life and that’s all they think about. The Bible says that they are held in the grip of bondage because of their fear of death. And one of these days, our resurrected King is gonna wrap the chains of eternity and the glorious of his glorious power around death and he’s gonna throw death into the lake of fire and death will be done and we’ll never have to face it again. And the Bible says in heaven there will be no more dying, no more dying. I love that final truth.

As a pastor, I have presided over death a lot in 50 years and I’ve buried my mother and my father and my sister and my brother-in-law and Donna’s brother and her mother and her father, and there’s been a lot of death over the years. And though we don’t fear death as believers, we don’t want to have it happen either. I tell everybody, “I’m not afraid to die but I don’t wanna die”. Are you with me on that? The wonderful truth of all of this, men and women, is that death is not the end.

Winston Churchill arranged his own funeral and there were stately hymns in St. Paul’s Cathedral and an impressive liturgy. At the end of the service, Churchill had an unusual event planned. When they said the benediction, a bugler high in the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral on one side played “Taps”, the universal signal that the day is over. There was a long pause and then a bugler on the other side played “Reveille”, the military wake-up call. It was Churchill’s way of communicating that while we say “Goodnight” here, we say “Good morning” up there. And why should we know that that is true? Because he believed in Jesus Christ. And when you know that Jesus is alive and that you’re related to him, it changes everything, does it not? Not just about the future. It changes everything today.

There’s a great biography about Martin Luther that came out a couple years ago and in that biography, it tells a story of Martin Luther coming down to breakfast one morning and he was in a time of great discouragement. He was very depressed. And his wife came down to breakfast and she was dressed in black. And he said, “Honey, why are you dressed in black”? She said, “‘Cause I’m in mourning”. And he says, “Why are you in mourning? What are you mourning about”? She said, “Well, God has died”. He said, “God has not died”. She says, “Yes, he has”. He says, “God is not dead”. She says, “Well, no he’s not but you’re acting like he is. So cheer up. You serve a living Savior, Martin. Quit mourning”.

However bad it may be, the one truth that stabilizes everything is we’re related to a God and to a Christ who never dies, who lives within us and he is the same yesterday, today, and forever. And our lives can be a daily experience of sharing in the power of the risen Christ. I can’t tell you how excited I am to let you know that Jesus Christ is alive today. He is at the right hand of the Father and one day he’s coming back. And most of us who have grown up in the church, we’ve grown up with the truth of the Resurrection wrapped around our hearts. So much so that we don’t even take notice of it. But I wanna tell you a little story that tells me how we should respond to the risen Christ.

“Ruth Dillow was working at her sewing machine at the National Garment Company on Thursday, February 28, 1991. She was called to her boss’s office and two somber men in uniform were there to tell her that her youngest son, Clayton Carpenter, had been killed by a cluster bomb during Operation Desert Storm. She said, ‘I can’t begin to describe my grief and my shock. It was almost more than I could bear. For three days I wept. For three days I expressed anger and loss. For three days people tried to comfort me but to no avail because the loss was so great.’ Neighbors came with flowers and cakes and casseroles, sympathy cards filled the mailbox, nearby businesses posted signs in honor and memory of her son. But Ruth was inconsolable and couldn’t take her eyes off a picture of her son. ‘I kept looking at that picture,’ she said, ‘and I kept saying, “No, he can’t be dead. This has to be a mistake”.’ Three days later, the phone rang and the voice on the other end said, ‘Hi, Mom, this is Clayton.’ Ruth froze, thinking somebody was playing a cruel hoax on her. But Clayton said, ‘Listen, Mom, c’mon, please believe me. They couldn’t find me. They didn’t know where I was but I’m alive and, though I’m hurt, I will soon be home.'”

Now, let me ask you, what do you think it was like in that woman’s heart when she found out that the son she thought was dead was really alive? What a party she must have had. She wouldn’t have been able to do anything for a while, just out of the sheer shock and relief of this story. Ladies and gentlemen, that’s how we should feel when we comprehend the fact we do not have a dead Savior. We have a living Savior. He is not dead. He is living. Scour the religions of our day, none of them have a living leader. They go to the places where their bodies are interred and there are monuments where they celebrate, but we have a living Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He’s living in our hearts. I talked to him this morning, I bet you did too. He is alive. And if you don’t know him, you know, I can rave on and on about Jesus.

There are not enough hours in the day for me to tell you all the wonderful things about him but here’s the most important thing. He can take away from you the most awful thing you know about yourself and that’s the sense of guilt and wrongness. When you accept Jesus Christ, he forgives you for everything you’ve ever done or will do. He takes away that guilt and he replaces it with peace and with a sense of his presence in your life. Why would you not want to make that important decision today to put your trust in him?




Photo Credit: Wikipedia.org

In the gospel of John chapter 11, we find the story of Lazarus and his two sisters – Martha and Mary. Right after Jesus and His disciples left Jerusalem (in order to avoid a violent confrontation with the Jewish leaders and their cohorts) we find Martha and Mary urgently requested Jesus to come to their home in order to heal their brother Lazarus. And such a request has a merit on its own as John 11:5 clearly states that “Jesus loved Martha, and his sister (Mary), and Lazarus. But for some reason only known to Him, Jesus delayed His return.

And as we read further in the chapter, the delay of Jesus’ coming to the house of Lazarus resulted in his death, and the sister’s grief. However, the sisters could have simply asked Jesus to say a word and Lazarus will be healed. There have been miracles performed by Jesus where he simply said the word and it was done: the healing of the centurion servant (Matt. 8:5-13), the healing of the demon-possessed daughter of a Canaanite woman (Matt. 15:21-28), and the healing of the ten (10) lepers (Luke 17:11-19).

In God’s mind, the delay was “working out for the good of those who love Him, who had been called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28). Sometimes we are like Martha and Mary. We understand what the Bible says, but we don’t understand its implication in our lives. It would seem that the sisters believed in Jesus but has stereotyped His method of healing to involved proximity or touching the person in order for healing to occur. They would never have thought that Jesus could do so much more. The delay brought about the greater good because it allowed Jesus to demonstrate the extent of God’s power over life and His power over death.

Martha believed in the resurrection of the dead as a future event. But Jesus corrected her by saying “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die”. (John 11:25) That statement is powerful, not just because the one who said it is powerful but because it has eternal repercussions that affects all humanity, the extent of which is too great for us to comprehend.

Some people may ask, if God’s will be for Lazarus to live then why did he had to die in the first place? Jesus provided the answer in verse 40, Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” All of this is for the glory of the LORD! So that the Son will be glorified through it (verse 4).

And upon seeing the grief of the sisters and the weeping of the Jews who sympathized with them, Jesus was deeply moved. It is also here that for an extra-ordinary moment Jesus showed a glimpse of His humanity: “Jesus wept” at the tomb of Lazarus (verse 35).

After He prayed, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” And what do we know: “the dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face”. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” (John 11:43-44)

The raising of Lazarus from the dead is considered by many as the turning point of Jesus’ public ministry, proving without a doubt that He is the Christ. This also answered the sister’s prayers in the beginning that Lazarus might be healed. Although the request was not granted immediately, it proved that “God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, . . .” (Eph. 3:20).

God’s purpose comes first, not our prayer request.


Redemption: Here’s how the 1st KKK grand wizard came to love black people

by Elizabeth Stauffer, The Western Journal October 10, 2020

They are rare.

They may happen once in a lifetime or not at all. They’re God stories, moments of clarity — those occasions when an individual experiences a profound spiritual change. And suddenly, a long-held, deeply ingrained attitude or behavior vanishes and nothing is the same again.

Confederate Army Gen. Nathaniel Bedford Forrest, who earned the nickname “The Wizard of the Saddle” for his aggressive — and highly effective — exploits on the battlefield, and subsequently served as the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, underwent such a fundamental transformation.

Forrest was born in 1821 in Chapel Hill, Tennessee, the eldest son of a poor blacksmith and his wife. Upon the death of his father 16 years later, Forrest became the man of the house.

A born leader, he seemed to rise to a position of authority in whatever enterprise he was associated with.

Last month, writer David Cloud shared several anecdotes from Forrest’s early life that demonstrate the extremity of his personality.

When his deeply religious mother, whom he loved, was attacked by a cougar, “he got his gun and his hunting dogs, tracked down the beast, treed it, killed it, and cut off its ears to present to his mother as a trophy of revenge,” Cloud wrote in a heavily researched piece for Way of Life Literature, which publishes Bible Study material.

Cloud recounted that Forrest got his start in business with one of his uncles. When he was 24, four brothers “who were seeking payment for a debt” attacked his uncle.

Forrest “shot two of them with a gun and stabbed two with a knife, and only one survived,” he wrote.

According to Cloud, by the time the Civil War broke out in 1861, Forrest had already become one of Tennessee’s richest men. He had earned his fortune through various business ventures, including the ownership of two cotton plantations and a thriving slave trading business.

Due to what Cloud called “his genius as a [cavalry] commander,” Forrest rose through the ranks rapidly. His audacity and his successes were legendary.

Cloud wrote that Forrest “killed 31 men during the war in hand-to-hand combat, had 30 horses shot out from under him, and was wounded four times. In one engagement, he fought four men at once and managed to escape. His brilliant tactics enabled him to defeat the larger Union forces repeatedly. General William Tecumseh Sherman named him ‘that devil Forrest’ and called for his death ‘even if it takes 10,000 men and bankrupts the Federal treasury.’

“His battlefield tactics have been studied in war colleges.”

History.com biography of Forrest described the most heinous act that occurred under his command. Following their capture of a Union garrison during the Battle of Fort Pillow in April 1864, Forrest’s men are alleged to have killed 200 soldiers after they had surrendered. A large number of them were black.

Cloud wrote that although “the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) was formed in 1865 … it didn’t prosper until 1867” when it Forrest became its leader.

The KKK, presided over by its new grand wizard, was very active during the 1868 presidential election, and was ultimately responsible for many political assassinations.

“During the election campaign of 1868, there were 336 murders or attempted murders of blacks in Georgia alone to suppress Republican voting,” Cloud wrote.

According to Cloud, Forrest attended and was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in New York City that year. His friend was the Democratic vice presidential nominee, and the party’s campaign slogan was: “Our Ticket, Our Motto, This Is a White Man’s Country; Let White Men Rule.”

The following year, “Forrest left the KKK … and tried unsuccessfully to disband it,” Cloud wrote.

However, it would still be another six years before he would accept Jesus Christ.

In the fall of 1875, while attending a sermon with his wife, a devout Christian, he was especially moved by the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:24-27:

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock,” Jesus says in the passage.

“But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

In a paper titled “When the Devil Got Saved: The Christian Conversion of Nathan Bedford Forrest,” (a summary of his long-form biography titled “Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Redemption”), biographer Shane Kaster wrote that following the sermon, Forrest spoke to the pastor.

He reportedly said: “Sir, your sermon has removed the last prop from under me. I am the fool that built on the sand; I am a poor miserable sinner.”

The pastor “told Forrest to go home and read and meditate on Psalm 51 and see where it led him,” Kaster wrote.

Psalm 51:1-3, reads: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.”

Kaster wrote that the next night, Forrest knelt with the pastor and accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and savior.

Shortly after his conversion, Forrest spoke before the Pole-Bearers Association, a black civil rights group.

“I came to meet you as friends, and welcome you to the white people. I want you to come nearer to us,” he reportedly said. “When I can serve you I will do so. We have but one flag, one country; let us stand together. We may differ in color, but not in sentiment.”

“Go to work, be industrious, live honestly and act truly, and when you are oppressed I’ll come to your relief. I thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for this opportunity you have afforded me to be with you, and to assure you that I am with you in heart and in hand.”

Following his speech, a young black girl reportedly presented him with a bouquet of flowers, and he responded by kissing her on the cheek.

Two years later, Forrest died at the age of 56, a changed man.

As Forrest lay dying, he reportedly told loved ones there was “not a cloud that separated him from his beloved Heavenly Father.”

This story demonstrates the power of Jesus to transform lives.

Skeptics may scoff at the notion that a divine power can intervene in an individual’s life and bring such radical change, but it is real. I have witnessed it.

And the good news is that anyone can tap this power. All we need to do is ask and believe.

Three Running Tips

by Kerry Shook

“Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win!” 1 Corinthians 9:24 (NLT)

God has a race marked out for you. When you come to Christ, you don’t sit in the stands and watch others run. The Christian life is like a race. Faith is more than an attitude. It’s an attitude that leads us to action. How well are you running your race? God wants us to run to win! He has an eternal prize awaiting those who run their race well. We are to run with purpose in every step. That takes discipline and training.

How can we run to win? The writer of Hebrews gives us some running tips that will prepare us and motivate us in our race. Running is as much mental as it is physical. If you’ve ever run a marathon you know what I’m talking about. You start out well and you’re running strong. Then you hit a wall where your body begins to challenge you! When you hit the wall in your spiritual race here are three things to keep in mind.

1. Look to those who have run before you. The writer of Hebrews describes them like a great cloud of witnesses that have gone before us in their race. They’ve finished their race and their lives encourage us to finish ours as well! Isaac Newton, who was widely recognized as one of the most influential scientists of all time said, “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.” If you will consider those who have gone on before you and ran their race well, it will encourage you to run your race to win!

2. Look to those who are running beside you. In verse 15 of Hebrews 12, the Bible says, “Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. …” When you’re running with a large crowd it’s easy to get tripped up or stumble. If we’re looking out for others running alongside us, we can help each other up. The Scripture says, “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (NLT)

3. Look to those who will run after you. The Christian race is a relay race. We’re not running alone, and our success depends on how well we run with others. The most important part of a relay race is when you pass the baton to the next runner. You can be ahead and still lose the race if you drop the baton. The Psalmist said, “We will not hide these truths from our children; we will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the LORD, about His power and His mighty wonders. … so the next generation might know them – even the children not yet born and they in turn will teach their own children. So each generation should set its hope anew on God, not forgetting His glorious miracles and obeying His commands.” Psalm 78:4-7 (NLT) If we want to win our race, we need to consider those who have gone before us, those who are running alongside of us and those who are coming after us. Paul said, “All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize!” 1 Corinthians 9:25 (NLT)

Three Running Tips

VIDEO “What Is This That God Hath Done Unto Us?”-Counterfeit Christianity


Do you see the Lord in the circumstances of your life? Our God is always at work. It is evident that He allows things to happen in our lives to get our attention. I want you to notice the work God did in the lives of Joseph’s brothers by reading Genesis 42:1-28. Take special note of the question in verse twenty-eight when they realized the money they had brought to purchase their food with was restored in their sacks, “What is this that God hath done unto us?” These fellows said to themselves, “We see God’s hand in this. What is He saying to us? What is this work that He is doing? Why is He allowing this to happen to us? We do not understand what is happening, but we know that God is surely in this.”

I want to remind you that God is working in the life of every person. You may see Him at work or you may not see Him at work, but God is at work. How does God work in our lives?


When we think of this question, “What is this that God hath done unto us?” let us keep in mind that God always deals in love. We get the idea at times that God has forsaken us or God is doing something to us that is awful. Some ask, “Lord, why did You allow such a thing to happen to me?” Remember that God is dealing with us in love. Do not allow the Devil to blind you to the goodness of God. The “goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance” (Romans 2:4).


Something else we must remember is that God’s intention is to bring men to Himself. The Bible says in Exodus 19:4, “Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself.” As you consider what is going on in your life, in your home, in our world, whatever thoughts are racing through your mind, remember that God is dealing with you in love and His purpose is to bring you to Himself.


In the account of Joseph and his family in Genesis 42:1-5, we see that they were faced with a great need. There was a famine in the land. There was hunger in the land. A great need had arisen. Word reached Jacob that there was food down in Egypt. Of all places, Egypt had become the breadbasket for the world during this famine. Perhaps at this particular time, they did not see the Lord’s hand in the matter, but it was God who had brought about the famine.

Would it not be wonderful if in all the glory days of our lives, when the sun is shining brightly and everything is going well, we trusted God with all our strength and might and lived for the Lord daily with all the desire possible? But it does not typically happen that way. It is during the days of darkness and the hours of great difficulty, during days of affliction when things go wrong, that we are made to realize we have a need, and we turn our hearts to the Lord.


Try to imagine what was taking place in Egypt during that time. Thousands of people were pouring into Egypt for food. Joseph had been appointed by Pharaoh to administrate the dispersing of the food. This famine brought visitors from other countries to Egypt where the food was. What a flood of emotion must have filled Joseph’s heart when he saw his brothers coming toward him that day!

Joseph’s brothers had betrayed Joseph in the worst way possible. They sold him as a slave and then lied about his disappearance to their father. Joseph may have thought he would never see any of his family again. Now, in Egypt, the tables were turned. The Lord has a special way of reminding us of our deeds. He is a personal God, and He deals with us in a personal way. As Joseph spake roughly to his brethren, he said, “You’re spies and you know you are spies.” They answered, “No, no, that’s not why we are here. We’re here because we are hungry and we need food.”

Joseph says again, “No, you’re spies.” He drives it home again and again until they are reminded so well of the awful thing they did to their brother. They had accused Joseph of being a spy for their father so many years before, and now the painful memory was revived in their minds.

How many times has God said to you and to me through something He has stirred inside of us, “Here is something you need to care for. Here is something you need to bring to the Lord. Here is something that is wrong and you know it. You need to get it right with God”? How many times has the Lord done that in our lives, and we have done nothing about it? We cannot carry these things in our lives that are unforgiven and unconfessed and expect to have God’s blessing and God’s peace. Therefore, He reminds us of our deeds.

The God I know and love and serve is the God who works in the life of every person to bring that person to Himself. “What is this that God hath done unto me?” Maybe you are asking yourself this question at this turbulent time in our world. We must realize that God wants to show us our need, remind us of our deeds, and use those things to bring us to Himself.

“What Is This That God Hath Done Unto Us?”

Counterfeit Christianity given by Pastor Clarence Sexton

Biblical Practice of Gleaning Is Saving People From Hunger During Pandemic

By Stephanie Martin -September 8, 2020


Though it’s often associated with the Old Testament story of Ruth and Boaz, gleaning has found fresh relevance during a 21st-century pandemic. The process of collecting extra crops to feed hungry people is bolstering many American communities while providing perks to farmers. 

On Sunday, PBS NewsHour featured a cooperative effort among New York’s Sycamore Farms, Cornell Cooperative Extension, and St. Mary’s Outreach, based at an Episcopal church in Newburgh, New York. Reporter Michael Hill shared how thousands of pounds of fresh produce now goes to good use in a poor community that’s classified as a food desert.

Gleaning: Sharing the Bounty 

Sycamore Farms owner Kevin Smith regularly participates in a thriving farmers market in New York City’s Union Square. Instead of discounting his produce at day’s end, Smith now lets a Cornell Extension team sort through the remnants and distribute them throughout the region.

Cornell Extension’s gleaning program transports almost 200 tons of fresh food to local pantries each year, according to director Stiles Najac. “We move food as quickly as we need to to make sure that it is eaten while fresh,” she says. The gleaning process is time-consuming due to “a wide variety of quality” of produce, and COVID-19 precautions present additional obstacles. “I would like to get volunteers into the field,” says Najac, but social distancing and other safety protocols have “kind of slowed us down.”

The pandemic also is affecting the distribution of gleaned produce. At St. Mary’s Outreach, food recipients are screened for symptoms, required to wear masks, and instructed to maintain physical space from others. But that doesn’t hamper their excitement about the bounty that’s available.

“I’m so amazed that they have an abundance of vegetables,” says one recipient. Another shares, “It’s a great privilege to come here…and I’m not ashamed of it because I’m going to go home and I’m going to eat very good.”

The Gleaning Solution

The Association of Gleaning Organizations says almost 200 gleaning programs exist throughout North America. Founding member Shawn Peterson estimates that gleaners gather about 50,000 tons of food yearly. With more volunteers and financial resources, he notes, an even larger portion of the 10 million tons of on-farm food loss could be prevented—and an additional 130 million people could be fed.

Gleaning is often left out of the conversation about food recovery and hunger relief,” says Peterson, a sixth-generation farmer. “We are working to change this.” To encourage more farmers to participate, some states provide tax credits on top of the federal tax write-off for donating crops to nonprofit groups.

Since the pandemic began, Cross-Lines Community Outreach, a social-services agency in Kansas City, Kansas, has doubled the number of households that use its food pantry. Manager Sarah Kaldenberg says the coronavirus shutdowns have increased some people’s feelings of helplessness, but gleaning provides tangible answers—and hope. “I think gleaning is kind of a way to say there are solutions,” she says. “There’s actually food in our country to feed these people.”

Because of the pandemic, one in six Americans could experience food insecurity in 2020, according to Feeding America. The food-bank network lists ways you and your church can fight hunger during September, which is Hunger Action Month.

Stephanie Martin, a freelance journalist, has worked in Christian publishing for 27 years. She’s active at her church in Lakewood, Colorado, where she lives with her husband and two teenage daughters.

Biblical Practice of Gleaning Is Saving People From Hunger During Pandemic